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I just finished watching a piece on The History Channel that argued for full body armor, a full face helmet, and horse armor for the Romans, making them the predecessors of the Medieval knights. They made links with the Sutton Hoo helmet and ceremonial Roman cavalry masks. Does anyone know if there is any validity to this? Thanks!
The Romans used face masks. We don't know if they used them in combat: it's possible, but nobody knows for certain. However, the medieval knight is based off a different premise than Roman cavalry: the importance of the knight was that he was a landed noble, not a professional soldier like a Roman soldier.

What you are describing is basically a Cataphract. The Romans became famous for their elite Kataphraktoi regiments in the medieval era.

Best picture of a Late Roman Cataphract I had on hand (I have a better one somewhere but can't find it.)
Let's give credit where credit is due.
The Romans would not have known what a cataphract was, had they not bumped into a Roxolanus. 8-)
And the Sutton Hoo helmet is Saxon, not Roman. 8-)

Time for a revision, folks. :twisted:
Don't know about cataphracts being the precursor to knights but it seems to me that the Sassanian Savaran heavy cavalry seemed to resemble later medieval knights except the savaran seemed to use their lances with an over-arm stance and seemed to protect their faces with chain mail rather than a full faced mask. Nadeem who contributes to this site does a good Sassanian impression.


[attachment=10646]image_2014-08-31.jpg[/attachment]

Regards
Michael Kerr
Is there a consensus in the difference between Clibanarii and the Cataphracts, other than linguistical or regional? Like in what equipment they wore, or training?
Actually-- in Authentic History Channel Tradition-- it was The Legendary Amazons... starring Cecilia Cheung and the legendary Cheng Pei Pei. Confusedilly:


[attachment=10647]legendary-amazons-2011-2.jpg[/attachment]

Yet, as mentioned in the above posts, good candidates would be the Royal Savaran, the Roxolani, the Alan heavy horse, etc., probably going back to the horsemen Tomyris used to defeat Cyrus the Great. No matter how you look at it, all of these prospective candidates hailed from the East and proportionately influenced the Roman cataphract. ;-)
Quote:Is there a consensus in the difference between Clibanarii and the Cataphracts, other than linguistical or regional? Like in what equipment they wore, or training?

Clibanarii, it is believed, had an armored horse AND rider, while Catafractarii only had an armored horse.

Cataphract - A heavily armored horseman
Catafractarius - A Roman heavy cavalryman (possibly infantryman as well)
Clibanarius - A Roman super-heavy cavalryman.

The Terms Clibanarius(ii) and Catafractarius(ii) are exclusive to describe the Roman usage of heavy cavalry. They cannot be applied to non-Roman super heavy cavalry.

As for the origin of Cataphract warfare, the Romans adopted it from the Sarmatians but had known about it for some time via the Parthians.
This post summarises my views on this subject:
http://www.romanarmytalk.com/17-roman-mi...=15#286514
Quote:This post summarises my views on this subject:
http://www.romanarmytalk.com/17-roman-mi...=15#286514

Thank you, Renatus

That's a very good analysis. Your "Western influence" on the Romans, the Sarmatians, actually came from the East... if you get my drift. What I dislike about the History Channel's so-called documentary is the lack of thorough investigation, the basic fact that Eastern cultures are the ones who should be credited with the physical form of "European knight."

The cataphract style of armor and maneuvering predates both the Sassanians and Sarmatians, and it could only have come from Central Asia's steppe. Therefore it was quite Eastern in origin. The Russsians, who have studied these cultures longer than Westerners have, attribute the heavy horseman to both the Massagetae and Sarmats (the Sargatskya Culture), both earlier than the Sassanians and Sarmatians. Here is a Russian reconstruction of an Sarmat horseman:

[attachment=10648]Sargatskayaculturehorseman.jpg[/attachment]
It should be also noted that while it is unclear if the Romans used face masks we know for sure from descriptions that Sassanid heavy cavalry really used them also in combat.
Quote:the predecessors of the Medieval knights.

I don't know about 'predecessors' - there's a gap of several hundred years between them... The earliest medieval full-face helmets only appeared c.1200, and don't resemble Roman ones at all.

Besides, a knight was more than just an armoured man on a horse - the concept is bound up with the social and military organisation of feudalism. Medieval field battles were usually quite different affairs to those of the ancient world.

Medieval cavalry did not, as far as I know, fight in close formation until around the 16th century - earlier knights fought as individuals, or in a group of about five men (the conroi). Roman varieties of heavy armoured cavalry seem to have been trained to maintain close order on the battlefield, and could become rather vulnerable otherwise...

As for the face mask thing, you'll find some discussions here and here
I agree with Nathan Ross. We get into murky waters when we try to trace cultural influences over hundreds of years and thousands of miles, especially when the subject is so bound up in local cultural values like the European knight was. It is most likely that Romans adopted the cataphract concept from the Sarmatians/Roxolani, but that is about as far as we can go. The evolution of armor in the West proceeded differently than the evolution in the East. Just because a Massegatae or Sassanid horseman fought in full armor does not mean that a medieval knight derives his full armor from one or both of them. Armor was fairly ubiquitous across the pre-modern world, at least where materials and metal-working techniques existed. To think that a Burgundian knight would never have thought to cover himself and his horse in armor as protection against arrows and blades without the influence of Roman (and therefore ancient steppe tribes of which the knight had never heard) horsemen is incorrect.
Quote:The evolution of armor in the West proceeded differently than the evolution in the East. Just because a Massegatae or Sassanid horseman fought in full armor does not mean that a medieval knight derives his full armor from one or both of them.
That's also what I'd think. I'd always understood Western European knight's panoply started off with a face-baring helmet, mail shirt and maybe hose -- and of course a shield -- and only gradually came to resemble that of a cataphract, so any influence can't have been direct.
Before reading this, understand my knowledge of Germanics isn't exactly that great:

The term Knight comes from germanic Chnite. Chnite were mounted lancers who were part of the guard of the leaders of, or the leaders of, small cantons in germanic society. As the Roman Empire crumbled, and the sortes were established in treaties with the barbarians, they became landed in the Roman empire as well, spreading the beginnings of fuedalism into spain, france, and other areas. Chnite weren't particularly rich, recruited from lower cantons, usually posessing no armor although they might have been able to afford helmets.

That's about my understanding of 3rd-6th century Germanic Chnite.
Didn't Ammianus and Julian/Libanius describe Clibanarii as wearing face masks?
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